Fantasy Football Sleepers: Breakout Stars Profiting Most from Change of Scenery
In fantasy football, the team around the player can drastically affect his output. With the flurry of free agency moves, trades and offseason signings, it can be hard to keep track of where key fantasy contributors have landed.
Even though their season last year may have been mediocre, a change of scenery with new teammates, coaches and schemes could dramatically boost their production.
Follow me as I walk you through a few key fantasy producers who are going to greatly improve their fantasy output with their new teams in 2011.
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Lee Evans, Baltimore Ravens
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Lee Evans was traded this season by the Buffalo Bills to the Baltimore Ravens for a fourth-round pick in next year's draft.
While in Buffalo, Evans showed brilliant flashes of greatness. However, the revolving door at quarterback for the Bills really stunted the complete potential he offered.
Buffalo dealt him to a team and quarterback desperately needing the deep threat.
Evans is going to have a breakout year this season in Baltimore.
Joe Flacco finally has a home run hitter with better speed than Derrick Mason and better consistency than Malcolm Floyd, two other potential receivers the Ravens looked at.
Evans and the Ravens are the big winners here, and if you are lucky enough to pick up Evans on your fantasy team, you too will not be disappointed.
Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins
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Tim Hightower was acquired by the Washington Redskins from the Arizona Cardinals this offseason in a trade for Vonnie Holliday and a 2012 draft pick.
Hightower spent his three seasons in Arizona in a crowded backfield.
Hightower saw two top draft picks selected after his brilliant rookie season, the highly touted Beanie Wells in 2009 and Ryan Williams (2011). Williams selection was what prompted the Cardinals to finally deal Hightower.
Hightower though has gotten new life under the Redskins' head coach Mike Shanahan.
Shanahan has been known for his ability to create fantasy production out of running backs. In his prime, Shanahan would get late draft picks with the Denver Broncos, and they would become the Broncos latest 1,000-yard rusher.
Hightower is also the main beneficiary of Ryan Torain's broken left hand only days after arriving in Washington. Hightower should have his best season yet under Shanahan's tutelage. He will be a breakout player in 2011.
Mike Sims-Walker, St. Louis Rams
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Mike Sims-Walker was acquired through free agency by the St. Louis Rams on a one-year $3.7 million contract.
Sims-Walker has been limited in demonstrating his full capabilities by the offense he has been in the past three seasons in Jacksonville. Head coach Jack Del Rio is content having Maurice Jones-Drew dominate the game on the ground as quarterback David Garrard stood in there as a game-managing QB.
Sims-Walker's stats tell the story. Over three seasons and 38 games Sims-Walker has accrued 1,648 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Fast forward to 2011 where Sims-Walker finds himself in a more balanced offense with a strong-armed quarterback and an offensive coordinator looking to open the field and utilize Sims-Walker in deep routes and goal-line situations.
Sims-Walker will get a chance to make a huge impact in 2011 across from fourth-year player Brandon Gibson.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
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Greg Olsen was traded by the Chicago Bears to the Carolina Panthers this offseason for a third-round pick in next year's NFL draft.
Olsen was under-utilized in Chicago by offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He was a solid contributor in Chicago, but his move to Carolina will make him a breakout fantasy star in 2011.
Olsen will likely get lots of passes in a conservative offense that appears to be led by Cam Newton in 2011.
Newton, a rookie, will heavily rely on Olsen a dependable receiver with great hands and athleticism. Olsen should surpass expectations in Carolina and should get lots of touchdowns and a ton of yards.
Plaxico Burress, New York Jets
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Plaxico Burress was recently reinstated by the NFL after doing jail time and was picked up in free agency by the New York Jets on a one-year $3.017 million contract.
Plax might not be considered a "sleeper" pick because he has had a lot of success throughout his career. But after being out of football for over two-and-a-half seasons, his new home with the Jets sure beats his old residence, the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, New York.
The Jets got a steal in the acquisition, and it appears like Burress will make an immediate impact for the Jets.
Burress should return to form in 2011 for the Jets, and his fantasy production should soar.